Paul LePage on Welfare & Poverty
Maine has for years taken advantage of a federal waiver of work requirements for food stamp recipients. [Now LePage's] policy change would affect an estimated 12,000 residents who collect roughly $15 million in benefits, paid for by the federal government.
"People who are in need deserve a hand up, but we should not be giving able-bodied individuals a handout,'' LePage said. "We must continue to do all that we can to eliminate generational poverty and get people back to work. We must protect our limited resources for those who are truly in need and who are doing all they can to be self-sufficient."
LePage has set his sights on broad welfare reform. This spring, he introduced a four-bill package aimed at reducing fraud in welfare payouts and encouraging job-seeking.
The federal data put Maine's personal-income growth at 0.5% in the first three months of 2014, well below the national rate of 0.8%. One of the biggest reasons cited for the low ranking was Maine's refusal to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.
LePage, however, said that Maine's net personal earnings increased by 0.8%. The governor arrived at his number by excluding what the federal bureau calls "personal current transfer receipts": payments from the federal government for Social Security, Medicare, unemployment benefits and Medicaid expansion. Maine is one of only four states (IN, TN and WY are the others) where transfer receipts declined this year. LePage said he chose not to follow the federal bureau's definition because it conceals welfare benefits.
According to LePage, the state could be liable for up to $13 million in federal fines for not meeting national TANF guidelines from 2007 to 2010, though that amount can be reduced if Maine takes quick action. At issue is that the state did not meet federal requirements for the number of TANF recipients who were working while receiving benefits. "We must fix this Maine law in order to comply with federal law," said LePage. "Maine is overly generous in allowing a wide variety of exemptions from the work requirement, which are not recommended by the federal government, making it impossible to meet federal standards."